In 2021, William Carey University worked through a changing landscape – keeping students safe and finding ways to deliver educational options to help them achieve their goals during a pandemic. And as administrators, faculty and staff addressed each new situation, they remembered the words of William Carey, “I'm not afraid of failure; I'm afraid of succeeding at things that don't matter.”
Here’s a small sampling of the things that mattered.
When 5,362 students enrolled in fall 2021, William Carey University broke its all-time enrollment record (again) with a 2 percent increase over the previous fall’s 5,260 students.
“Two percent may not sound like a large increase, but keep in mind, William Carey’s enrollment has been rising steadily throughout the pandemic period. We are thankful for our students, who have entrusted us to help them advance their education in challenging times,” said WCU President Tommy King.
This overall increase also included several individual records:
WCU’s Tradition campus near Biloxi grew more than 13 percent, from 864 students to 1,001 students.
The School of Education’s overall enrollment rose 6 percent, from 1,705 students to 1,806 students. But the number of undergraduate education majors grew by 13 percent – from 358 students to 405 students.
Since King became president of William Carey University in 2007, enrollment has more than doubled and the number of residential students has tripled.
College of Health Sciences
William Carey University held a ribbon-cutting for a new, 67,000-square-foot building at its Hattiesburg campus in July. The largest facility WCU has ever built, it is the new home of the William K. Ray College of Health Sciences.
“I’m so emotional right now with pride and joy. This is a huge day for us, for healthcare in our region, and for the 26 states from which we draw students,” said Janet Williams, WCU associate vice president for health programs.
The new facility houses nursing, physical therapy, health information management, and health administration and education. It includes state-of-the-art simulation labs, student lounges, classrooms, offices, and a pair of 200-seat lecture halls for use by the College of Osteopathic Medicine.
College of Osteopathic Medicine
When Health Sciences programs moved into the new facility, the WCU College of Osteopathic Medicine inherited their three former buildings. After renovations and remodeling, the COM now occupies six buildings in the northwest corner of campus.
This much-needed expansion comes as College of Osteopathic Medicine nears the completion of a three-year, 100 percent increase in the size of the incoming class – when its 800 students will make it the largest medical school in the state.
In March, U.S. News & World Report awarded top national rankings to the medical school: No. 2, by percentage of graduates, for placing graduates into rural areas and No. 5 for placing graduates into underserved areas. WCUCOM also ranks No. 3 in the nation for producing the highest percentage of primary care residents over a three-year rolling average.
WCU College of Osteopathic Medicine was founded in 2010 with a mission to increase the number of primary care physicians practicing in rural and underserved areas of Mississippi and the Gulf South.
School of Pharmacy
The inaugural class of the William Carey University School of Pharmacy graduated in April during commencement exercises at First Baptist Church Gulfport.
The School of Pharmacy at WCU’s Tradition campus is an accelerated program, enabling students to earn a Doctor of Pharmacy degree in two years, 10 months, instead of the more usual four years. It is one of only a handful of accelerated pharmacy programs in the country.
“The graduation of our inaugural class of pharmacy students is, indeed, an exciting time for William Carey and the Gulf Coast. This is another step in the growth of William Carey’s ability to meet the needs of Mississippi and the Gulf South region,” said King.
The Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education granted final accreditation in July.
King Student Center
In March, the William Carey University’s Hattiesburg campus hosted a ribbon-cutting for the Tommy and Sandra King Student Center, named in honor of King and his wife, Sandra.
Carey Scholar Bryson Rogers spoke at the ceremony: “When I began preparing for this speech, Dr. King, I went around campus asking students to choose one word that expresses what you mean to them. These are some of the words: dedicated, visionary, eloquent, genuine, friendly, wise, welcoming, perseverant, optimistic, personable, considerate, hospitable, caring, supportive, thoughtful, approachable, gentle, and kind.”
The three-story building includes the Baptist Student Union and Carey Diner, student lounges, game room, computer lab, study rooms, event/conference rooms, large balcony, and offices for Student Services, Residence Life and Housing, and Information Technology.
Earlier in the year, WCU and Hattiesburg Clinic partnered to open a Student Health Center in the former site of the Baptist Student Union. It serves students and staff with general health care services – as well as COVID-19 testing and vaccinations.
Teacher Shortage Initiatives
The WCU School of Education has a long history as one of the largest and best teacher-prep programs in the state. WCU recognized the teacher shortage problem early, and has partnerships with K-12 school districts, community colleges and four-year institutions across the state for teacher recruitment/retention initiatives. These include Alternate Route, Grow Your Own, CEO Leadership Academy, teacher assistant tuition waiver and teacher residency programs.
In December, WCU received a $1.9 million grant from the Mississippi Department of Education to enroll diverse students to work toward a master’s degree and Mississippi teacher certification in K-6 classrooms. WCU student teachers will serve in critical shortage areas – Hattiesburg, Forrest County, Covington County, and Greenville.
This new residency grant joins two others awarded to WCU:
In 2019, WCU was one of three universities that received $600,000 grants from the Mississippi Department of Education to a pilot teacher residency program for undergraduates. WCU partnered with the Ocean Springs and Gulfport school districts.
With a grant of about $100,000 received during the summer from Black Educators Initiative, WCU is partnering with Pine Belt school districts on a new teacher residency program to increase the number of black classroom teachers.
In November, William Carey University and the Gulfport School District hosted the 1st Annual Statewide Teacher Shortage Conference – a free, daylong event for educators at WCU’s Tradition campus.
More good news, Teacher.org recognized WCU’s Health, Physical Education & Recreation program as one of the Top 50 online teacher education programs in the country.
Almost from the start of the pandemic, WCU students from the College of Health Sciences served at COVID-19 immunization sites. They included students from the School of Pharmacy at WCU’s Tradition campus and School of Nursing students from the Hattiesburg, Tradition and Baton Rouge campuses. WCU College of Osteopathic Medicine students also served at immunization sites.
In November, the theme of WCU’s 10th Annual Scholarship Dinner’s was “Tribute to the Medical Community,” recognizing the service of Pine Belt healthcare professionals during the pandemic.